If you've been on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the last week, you've probably seen it: countless videos of people dumping ice on themselves to help raise awareness of ALS. It's done a tremendous job at getting people to talk about a truly debilitating disease -- but that's mostly all it's done -- get people to talk.
Let me explain.
Slacktivism is a relatively new term with only negative connotations being associated with it as of recently. The whole thinking is that instead of actually donating money, you're attributing your time and a social post in place of that donation. Basically, instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ, slacktivism would have you create a Facebook Post about how much you care about Charity XYZ- generating immediate and heightened awareness but lacking any actual donations and long term impact. Previous examples of slacktivism are not hard to find- remember in 2012 when everyone, and I mean everyone, shared the Kony video? Very few people knew who Kony was, how they could donate or where they could get involved- but all of a sudden, these viewers (myself, included) could contribute! We could share the Kony video on our Facebook and Twitter -- and while doing so, eliminating any chance we may have had at donating our time or money towards an actual prevention or cause directly related to the capture of Kony. You see, we valued our social posts at an incrementally higher cost than a donation- and by placing a sub-concioucs value on our Facebook post or Tweet, we told ourselves that we had done our part in trying to find Kony and then were able to pleasantly shift our thinking back to what we were going to eat for lunch. We had helped. We had participated. We patted ourselves on the back. We had tweeted.
We could now go back to tweeting about our lives.
When the #IceBucketChallenge started, the person who was challenged to participate had 24 hours or else they had to donate $100. However, due to the viral nature of the videos, this major component has mostly evaded the majority of the videos. Instead, people buy the bags, set up a camera, grab a bucket and think of which friends they're going to tag. You probably didn't get the right angle the first go around and maybe the second time you fumbled your words- oops, more ice. By the end of it, you might have bought 6 bags and spent 30 minutes on creating this video. Boom, posted- and all of a sudden you're a philanthropist, spreading your charitable touch across your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Due to all of this, you've internally placed a monetary value on the cost of goods, the time spent and for posting on your social channels. This monetary value has little long term effect and next time you're thinking of donating to a charity or for a cause, you might think back to that time you created a video.
You've done your part, remember?
And although the ALS Assocation has seen as much as four times as many donations during this time period than last year, just imagine with me for one second: What if the thousands of people who spent money on buying one or two2 bags of ice actually gave that money to ALS? It would be out of control.
But that's not how we think.
Our online profiles have become a direct reflection of who we are online; our life experiences are no longer an experience if isn't shared. We aren't having a great time unless we stop, take a picture of it and share it with everyone. We have an internal value associated with each Facebook post, Tweet and Instagram. If you use that social action to help further a cause, that social action is taking the place of an actual donation. Instead of donating, we are posting. By creating such awareness, this awareness has a cap; a ceiling of sorts, that if reached can then become cannibalistic in nature. The viral nature of this almost hurts ALS due to the substitution of potential donations with a social post; internally, people think they have donated when in turn they've only posted.
We're social creatures. We're using the #IceBucketChallenge to show off our summer bodies. We're using it to tag old friends. We're using it to show people we care. We're using it to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. We're using it to promote ourselves, in one way or another.
The #IceBucketChallenge has done a tremendous job at generating awareness for a terrible disease. But next time somebody challenges you to participate, try to show your friends how crazy you really are and just donate to the cause.